“Dakota was angry I stayed out all night so he chewed up my favorite Marc Jacob slippers.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“I spanked him on the behind. It was so obvious that he did it to get back at me!”
“Okay, let me explain Dakota actions from his point of view. You have to realize that dogs have no concept of time and a couple of hours to you can seem like an eternity to your dog. What do you think Dakota does when you’re away? Trust me, he’s not surfing the internet or watching the WB. He is, in fact, either sleeping or chewing on something. So, if your dog is missing you, what’s the first thing he’s going to want to do? Be with you. And what’s the next best thing when you’re not around? Something that stinks heavily of you: remote controls, sunglasses, sofas and even your favorite Marc Jacob slippers. So, in a sense, you just spanked your dog for missing you.”
My client’s eyes swelled up with guilt-ridden tears… and for good reason.
Just as it was difficult accepting the reality that Santa Claus didn’t exist, so must the time come when you realize that dogs aren’t mentally capable of “getting back at us.” Revenge is a rather complex thought process that’s reserved for us more advanced and civilized beings.
Cut to my revelation:
Several years ago I had a cat, Phoenix, who had her spleen removed due to cancer. After the surgery she had to go on steroids, which caused an increase in her appetite. Suddenly, early in the morning she would crawl up on my pillow and meow incessantly and place her paw on my face pleading for food. This drove me crazy. A 5:00am routine became increasingly annoying. So, one night I wore earplugs and when she started up, I threw the covers over my head and ignored her. Guess what? She peed all over the bed! I was so angry because I just knew she was doing this to “get back at me”.
When I calmed down I began to think from Phoenix’s point of view; this was my first epiphany in animal behavior. The steroids were making her ravenous. Consequently, she jumps on the bed, pleading for food. She does not understand nor cares that I have consumed vast quantities of margaritas the night before; she is simply starving. This is stressful for her. She is trying to wake me to feed her and she also has a full bladder. To her, she is focused on her very primal instinct, which revolves around finding food to survive instead of taking a trip to the cat box to pee. She continues her efforts to wake me and suddenly (and possibly due to the stress of the situation) her bladder becomes so full that she just can’t hold it and she releases – not to get back at me but just because she simply has to eliminate.
Please do me a favor: the next time you think your pet has sought revenge on you, try and look at it from their point of view. It will liberate you and your animal companion.
About the Author: Zack Grey is a veterinarian-recommended professional dog trainer specializing in obedience and behavior. After launching his own company,UrbanTails, Zack was quickly lauded for his innovative personal training and technique. He has been profiled by numerous publications including DailyCandy.com, IN Los Angeles, MSN.com and currently writes an “Ask Zack” column in The Pet Gazette.